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[XFVCU 1x05] Beneath The Surface by Lara Means
Summary: Doggett and Reyes find themselves in New Orleans on a case with unsettling overtones. Part of the XFVCU virtual series.

Beneath The Surface
X Files: VCU 1x05
By Lara Means

DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. Heck, I don't even own
my name. It all belongs to 20th Century Fox. No
infringement intended.
ARCHIVE: Yes to mailing list auto-archives. Anywhere
else, please ask.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Set eighteen months after The
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: SR, romance, post-series,
casefile, XFVCU.
SUMMARY: Doggett and Reyes find themselves in New
Orleans on a case with unsettling overtones.
VIRTUAL SERIES SITE: http://xfvcu.deslea.com
AUTHOR SITE: http://larameansxf.tripod.com
FEEDBACK: larameansxf@earthlink.net

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Extreme thanks to Deslea Judd for her
hard work on this project, for her patience, and for
coming up with such a kick-ass concept in the first
place. This is my first casefile, so be gentle. *g*

He hated this city. Everything about it was loud,
garish. Over the top. Even on this most somber of

Jason Gibney had been a funeral director in
Cincinnati for ten years before his wife's father
died and they moved to New Orleans to take care of
her mother. Both he and Anna were relieved when he
landed a job at one of the city's most prestigious
mortuaries -- until he oversaw his first Dixieland

It wasn't so much the idea of celebrating the life of
the departed that offended him as it was the way it
was done, with bright music and brighter colors, with
dancing and a parade. It was unseemly.

Today's event was no exception. The family had asked
to have the casket lid removed -- removed! -- and the
departed was to be transported from the funeral home
to the cemetery on a horse-drawn bier, preceded by
the de riguer Dixieland band and followed by dancing
loved ones.

But Jason did his job. He had the lady dressed in the
outlandish outfit he'd been given, made sure her hair
was styled just so and her makeup carefully applied.
And he was properly courteous and respectful of the

Arriving at the cemetery after the stroll through the
neighborhood caused him more agitation. He understood
the reasons for the way New Orleans' cemeteries were
constructed -- the city's below sea level, so burying
people really wasn't practical -- but still, they
just didn't look like cemeteries. Not like the ones
in Cincinnati, anyway.

Just inside the cemetery gates, Jason gladly turned
the festivities over to his associate. Laurel Atwood
was a native of the area, and as such was more suited
to the celebratory nature of the event. As he watched
the procession move deeper into the cemetery, weaving
among the crypts, he thought about -- not for the
first time -- how much he wished his mother-in-law
would hurry up and die so he and Anna could move back
to Cincinnati. Knowing her, though, the old witch
would probably insist on a Dixieland funeral, and
he'd be forced to deal with the whole three-ring
circus as a family member.

He sighed and lit a cigarette, leaning against a
nearby crypt. That's when he heard it -- a low sound,
almost like a person crying. Then he realized it was
coming from inside the crypt.

Fishing his keys from his pocket, Jason figured it
was probably some high school vandal who somehow got
inside and couldn't get out. "Serves you right," he
said to the door as he unlocked it.

But what was inside was no vandal. It was a man --
who was supposed to be dead.

The casket in the center of the crypt was open, the
lid's latch broken. Its former occupant, whose family
name on the door was Robillard, lay on his side near
the door. He was naked from the waist down, his
shirt, jacket and tie dusty and gray.

His clothes were a match for his skin -- mottled,
paper-thin. Decaying.

Jason's cigarette fell from his fingers at the sight.
He turned and ran when the living corpse on the floor
reached out to him.

~ X ~

Special Agent Jeffrey Spender moved resolutely from
the parking garage to the elevator, head held high
despite the stares from his fellow agents. As he
walked, he heard Diana's voice in his head,
whispering the encouragement she'd given him time and
time again -- 'Let them stare. You have no reason to
be ashamed or embarrassed. You sacrificed so much,
Jeffrey. As far as I'm concerned, you're a hero.'

He didn't feel much like a hero, but he *was* getting
less self- conscious. He even nodded hello to
Skinner's assistant when she passed him in the hall
the other day. But there were still days when he felt
like an outsider, even in his own unit.

That was something Monica Reyes seemed determined to

"Again?" he said as he stepped into the basement
office and spotted the open box of Krispy Kremes on
the table by the door. "What is she trying to prove?"

"She wants to be friends, Jeff," Alex Krycek
responded, a teasing smirk on his face. "She brought
the raspberry jelly ones you like."

"And the chocolate iced with sprinkles that *you*
like," Spender pointed out. "What if I don't want to
be friends? What if I just want to do my job and be
done with it at the end of the day?"

"You don't have to eat them, Jeffrey," Brad Follmer
said, watching Spender pluck a raspberry jelly
doughnut from the box. "But I'll warn you, Monica can
be relentless when she wants something. And she wants
this unit to work."

"The unit works fine," Spender replied, getting a
snort from Krycek. He glanced to the senior agents'
desks. "Where are they, anyway?"

"Skinner's office," Follmer said. "New case."

Spender nodded and took a bite of his doughnut,
tongue darting out to catch the raspberry filling
running down his hand.

~ X ~

Assistant Director Walter Skinner sipped his coffee
and studied the two agents sitting across the desk
from him. He couldn't help but compare them to Mulder
and Scully -- the similarities demanded it. But
however much John Doggett and Monica Reyes resembled
their predecessors on the outside -- a skeptic and a
believer falling in love in the basement office -- it
was only cosmetic. Reyes's beliefs weren't as
personal or as deeply held as Mulder's, and her leaps
of logic weren't as soundly based. And Doggett's
brand of skepticism didn't have the benefit of a
scientific basis, as Scully's did, so he usually just
came off as stubborn. Still, these two had succeeded
on the X- files beyond his wildest expectations --
maybe it was *because* of those differences.

"We had a call this morning from a police lieutenant
you apparently worked with in New Orleans," he told
Reyes. "A Rene Delacroix?" He pronounced it

"Delacroix," Monica corrected him gently, using the
French pronunciation she knew Rene preferred. "He
wasn't a lieutenant then, but yes, I consulted on a
few of his cases when I was with the New Orleans
field office. I always got the impression he didn't
care much for my ideas."

"Regardless, he's got a case for us, and he's
requested your involvement."

"An X-file?" she asked as Skinner handed her the
notes from his conversation with Delacroix.

"Possibly." Skinner turned to Doggett to explain
while Reyes read the file. "Three people presumed
dead have turned up alive in recent weeks. All three
had been entombed in the family crypt and were
discovered to be alive within a few days, two by
grieving relatives and one by a funeral director."

"And he thinks what, this Lieutenant Delacroix?"
Doggett used Skinner's pronunciation.

"He's read the papers, Agent Doggett. He was very
familiar with press accounts of
Mulder's...resurrection. And what happened to Billy

"He thinks these people have become supersoldiers?"
Reyes asked. "Based on what?"

"On the fact that they were dead and now they're not.
Look, he's...he's scared. Like a lot of people. He's
not sure the supersoldier issue is behind us, and he
wants some reassurance from people who've dealt with
them, who know what to look for." The A.D. looked at
Reyes, who glanced at Doggett then nodded. "Kimberly
has your travel arrangements. Your flight leaves in
three hours."

The agents rose as one and headed for the door.

"Agent Reyes?" They both turned around at their
superior's voice. "Thanks for the doughnuts."

Monica smiled as Skinner bit into a sweet Original

~ X ~

"What's the deal with you and these doughnuts?"
Doggett asked his partner as they picked up their
itineraries from Skinner's assistant.

Reyes thanked Kim before preceding him into the
hallway. "What do you mean?"

"Come on, Monica, you've been bringing doughnuts to
the office for over a month. Now you're bringing 'em
to Skinner. What's up?"

"Nothing's up. I'm just trying to be nice." She
pushed the 'down' button at the elevator, then turned
to Doggett. "I'm going home to pack. There are some
files we should take -- "

"Mulder, Billy Miles," he nodded.

"And Teresa Hoese, and any other abductees or
supersoldiers we have files on." It remained unspoken
between them -- Gene Crane, Shannon McMahon, Knowle
Rohrer. "And I think it'd be a good idea to talk to
Agent Spender."

"Spender? Not Mulder?"

"No, I'm going to stop by Mulder's on my way home."
The elevator arrived and they got in, pushing buttons
for the garage level and the basement. "But I think
Agent Spender may be able to help us on this too."

"His experiences were totally different from what
Mulder and the others went through. I don't see how
he could help."

"John...just talk to him, please?"

He looked at her for a moment, then gave her an
affectionate grin. "Nobody said you have to be social
director of the X- files."

Monica opened her mouth to protest, but closed it
again when he pulled her close and kissed her. It
wasn't a quick kiss; they were still engaged when the
elevator stopped at the garage level and Monica heard
a throat being cleared behind her. She stepped back a
little from John, then glanced over her shoulder.

"Hi, Diana."

Diana Fowley tried unsuccessfully to hide her smile
as she stepped into the elevator. "Monica. Agent

"Agent Fowley," Doggett muttered, his face turning a
little pink.

Reyes put a hand on the elevator door and stepped
out. "I'll be back in about an hour." Her eyes
flickered to Diana, then back to John. "You'll talk
to him?"

Doggett sighed, then nodded. "I'll talk to him."

He was rewarded with a big smile as the elevator
doors slid closed.

~ X ~

Monica could hear the baby crying from the hallway,
and began to wonder if she shouldn't have called
first. Before she could change her mind about talking
to him altogether, Mulder opened the door.

"Monica, hi," he said, surprised.

She took in his slightly disheveled appearance and
the squirming, balling child in his arms. "Looks like
I've come at a bad time. I'm sorry."

"No, no. Come on in." Mulder stepped back to let her
inside, closing the door behind her. "I'm just trying
to convince Mr. Crankypants here that he needs a

William seemed to notice her just then, and launched
himself toward her. "Want Mon'ca!"

Neither adult had a choice in the matter -- William
was transferred from his father's arms to Monica's.
His little arms wound tightly around her neck,
hanging on for dear life.

Mulder shrugged sheepishly. "You mind?"

"You kidding? Of course not," she responded, her hand
stroking up and down the little boy's back as she
swayed with him.

"I'm gonna get him a glass of water. Can I get you

Monica shook her head, and he went off toward the
kitchen. She made her way to the living room and sat
down on the sofa. William's arms tightened
reflexively as she did, and she murmured into his

"I've got you, it's okay." Settling, she kept rubbing
his back and whispering to him. "Mr. Crankypants,
huh? Well, you know that just because I'm here
doesn't mean you don't have to take a nap." William
just snuffled and burrowed deeper into her shoulder.
Monica just smiled and pressed a kiss into his sweaty

Mulder came back with a sippy cup and a damp
washcloth, which Monica took from him. She nudged
William into a sitting position as Mulder joined them
on the sofa. He took hold of his son's feet as Monica
wiped the tears and sweat from the child's face, his
big hands encircling William's ankles, fingertips
making soothing patterns on the backs of his calves.
Monica continued to speak softly to him.

"Why don't you want to take a nap, William? I wish I
could take a nap. But I have to go to New Orleans."
Mulder met her eyes then, understanding.

"Why you hafta go to Norlins?" William asked, and
Monica smiled at his pronunciation. He'd fit right in

"For work. Some people there need my help." She
finished with the washcloth and picked up the sippy
cup. "Hey, would you like to go to New Orleans
instead of me? Let me stay here and take a nap?"

William shook his head and took the cup from her, his
eyes drooping already.

"You sure?"

William nodded and leaned against her chest.

"Okay then. Let Daddy put you to bed?"

The child nodded again and held out his arms to his
father. Mulder took him and smiled at Monica, then
carried him to his bedroom.

Alone in the room, Monica stood and wandered over to
the mantel, to the family photos displayed there.
Dana and Mulder, Dana and William, the three of them.
None of just Mulder and his son.

"Sorry about that," Mulder said as he came back into
the room.

"It's okay," Monica smiled. They returned to the
sofa, and there was a brief pause.

"So. What's in New Orleans?"

Monica took a deep breath. "Three people who were
dead...and who aren't now."

"Wow," he said, stunned. He struggled to find the
questions he needed to ask. "Are they..." he began,
then swallowed hard. "Are they like Billy Miles?"

"We don't know. It's possible that they went through
something similar to what you did. It's also possible
they didn't, that there's something else going on
here. But I wanted to give you a head's up, just in
case..." She trailed off, looked away from him.

"Just in case what?" Mulder asked, putting a hand on
her arm. "Despite the degree, Monica, I'm not a
practicing psychologist. I can't help these people."

"I think you can, simply through the shared
experience. Not many people can say they were dead
and then came back."

"I don't like to talk about that time. I don't even
like to think about it." He stood and began to pace,
agitated. "Those first few days, weeks, after I was
revived... they were hell. For me, for Scully, for
everybody. Doggett can tell you -- "

"Dana has told me," she said, and Mulder turned to
face her. She could see the pain literally etched on
his face, in the form of the tiny scars on his cheeks
that were now standing out in stark relief. Monica
rose and went to him, keeping her distance, giving
him some space. "I can't begin to know what that was
like for you. But I want you to put yourself in the
position of someone going through that experience
without your training, your coping skills."

She held his eyes for a moment, then he looked away.
"I can't, Monica," he said softly. She nodded, gave
him a gentle smile.

"Okay. I just wanted to tell you about the case."
Changing the subject, she asked, "Where's Dana this

"Quantico," he said. "Giving me and William some time
alone. And we saw how well *that* turned out." They
shared a smile at the image that greeted her when
she'd arrived. "You were really good with him. I can
see why Scully trusts you so much."

Monica shrugged. "I was there at the beginning," she
said -- then mentally kicked herself for reminding
him that he missed his son's birth. "Anyway, I'd
better get going, got a plane to catch. Tell Dana I
said hello."

Mulder followed her to the door and opened it for
her. She searched his face for a moment, then left.
She was halfway down the hall when he called out to

"Monica?" She turned. "Call if you need me."

She smiled, nodded. "Thank you. I will." Mulder went
back inside, and Monica continued on her way.

~ X ~

Monica crumpled the now-empty pack of complimentary
pretzels, wishing for more complimentary water to
counteract the salt. She glanced at John sitting next
to her -- he hadn't touched his pretzels, or the
coffee he'd asked for. He was staring off into space,
preoccupied with something.

"John?" No response. She brushed her hand down his
arm and he jumped slightly. He turned to look at her,
questioning. "Hey," she said softly. "You were a
million miles away." He just shrugged and looked away
again. "John? What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he said, then added, "I was just
thinking." Monica squeezed his arm and he met her
eyes. "About the case. What if..."

"What if, what?"

"What if it *is* what we've dealt with before? What
if these people are like Billy Miles? You know what
that would mean."

She nodded. The plane was crowded; they were both
careful to pitch their voices low. "That it hasn't
stopped. But John, there are so many things that have
to fall together for that to even be a possibility --

"I know, but -- I'm just afraid we haven't seen the
last of the supersoldiers, or alien replacements, or
whatever the fuck Billy Miles was."

Monica slipped her hand into his and they laced their
fingers together. "Let's wait until we know more,
okay? I don't want to scare people unnecessarily."

"Including me?" he asked. She smiled at him, brought
their joined hands to her lips and kissed his, then
settled her head on his shoulder. Neither of them
moved again until the plane landed.

~ X ~

Reyes had been able to talk her partner into letting
her drive the rental car while they were in New
Orleans, since she'd put in a couple of years there
and knew her way around. On the way to the police
station to meet with Rene, she occasionally glanced
over at him. John was tense, his jaw clenching along
with his fists. She allowed herself a small smile; he
was so obvious when he was jealous.

"So," he said, then cleared his throat. "How well do
you know this Lieutenant Delacroy?"

She shook her head, choosing not to correct him for
now. "Just what I said in Skinner's office. I
consulted on a few of his cases."

Doggett nodded, looked thoughtful. Then he said
quietly, "What kind of a name is Rene for a guy,
anyway?" Again, he mispronounced the name, placing
the emphasis on the last syllable.

Reyes had to suppress a laugh. She should have
expected this reaction from him. One of the main
reasons John didn't work well with Brad was his
jealousy over their past relationship.

Using the proper pronunciations, she said, "It's
Rene, and it's Delacroix, and it's French. Since
Louisiana was settled by the French, you'll find lots
of French names down here -- people, places, food..."

"Just don't ask me to eat any escargot and we'll be
fine," he grumbled, and she did laugh then. He looked
at her sharply. "What?"

She just shook her head and signaled a left turn into
the precinct parking lot.

~ X ~

She watched him as they waited for Lieutenant
Delacroix, a tiny smile on her face. He still gave
off a bit of a nervous, 'jealous boyfriend' vibe, but
he was completely unaware of it.

If she were honest, she would have admitted to a
touch of nervousness herself. She wasn't kidding when
she told Skinner that Delacroix never had much use
for her ideas. She still wondered why he had
specifically requested her involvement on this case.

Monica caught John's eye and smiled, hoping to
reassure him that he had nothing to worry about where
Rene Delacroix was concerned. Just then, a booming
baritone sounded out.


Cringing at the unwelcome endearment, Reyes turned to
greet the approaching man. If Delacroix had been
larger than life before, the past few years and the
promotion to lieutenant had made him even more so.
Tall at six-two and fit, with jet black hair,
glittering blue eyes, with a slight Cajun/ French
accent, Monica could certainly understand why most
women in the N.O.P.D. -- and many in the Bureau field
office -- found Rene attractive. But, then as now,
there was something about him that set her teeth on

Reyes plastered a polite smile on her face and held
out her hand as Delacroix approached, but he brushed
it aside and drew her into a loose embrace. She could
see Doggett's jaw tighten as Delacroix kissed both
her cheeks then stood back to look at her.

"Damn, you look good, Cher," he said, giving her arm
a squeeze before letting go.

"Thanks, Rene, so do you. Being a lieutenant
certainly agrees with you."

"Can't complain. How's Washington treating you?"

"Good. The work is exciting, challenging."

"Not like the boring old cases we used to throw you,
eh? This one, though -- I surely do appreciate you
helping us out on this one."

"Our pleasure," Doggett said, stepping forward and
extending his hand. "John Doggett. Agent Reyes's

"How do," Delacroix replied, shaking hands. "Would
y'all like some coffee or something?"

"Why don't you just fill us in on the case."

"'Course. Let's go into my office." Delacroix led
them through the police station, and Reyes chanced a
glance at her partner. He didn't meet her gaze.

~ X ~

Delacroix settled himself behind a sizable desk and
motioned the agents to sit as well. He handed them
the files and said, "I'm afraid I do have some rather
disturbing news. Since I spoke with your Assistant
Director Skinner this morning, one of these
unfortunate individuals has died." Doggett and Reyes
both looked up from the files. "For real this time."

"You sure?" Doggett asked, barely concealing a smirk.

"This poor man had been in the hospital since being
found, and apparently never recovered from the
ordeal. Yes, Agent Doggett, we're sure. The doctors
have checked him over thoroughly. And since he died
in a hospital, an autopsy is required by law."

"We'd like to have our pathologist do that," Reyes
said, closing the file. "Can you arrange to have the
body sent to Quantico?" Delacroix nodded. "And we'd
like to talk to the man who found the most recent
victim. The funeral director."

"'Course," Delacroix replied, rising. "I'll drive

"That's not necessary," Doggett said, also standing.
"Monnie knows her way around the city."

~ X ~

Monica sat behind the wheel of the rental car, teeth
clenched, steering wheel in a death grip. The
passenger door opened and Doggett got in, putting his
cell phone into his coat pocket. "I told Scully to
expect the body, she said she'd get on it first

She waited until he was buckled up, then started the
car. She gunned the engine, squealed the tires a
little pulling out.

"Hey, easy there, Jeff Gordon," Doggett teased. Reyes
said nothing. "You all right?"

She waited until they came to a traffic light, then
turned and pinned him with a glare. "Don't call me

Doggett's eyes narrowed. "Your buddy Rene did."

"He did it without permission, too." The light
changed and Reyes guided the car through the late
afternoon traffic. "And you didn't have to be rude."

"When was I rude?" he replied, indignant.

"Dismissing his offer to come with us," she pointed
out. "I'm sure we could use his help at the

"You and I are capable of interviewing a witness on
our own."

She didn't respond to that. In fact, neither of them
said anything else until they got to the funeral
home. Turning off the car, Reyes turned to him. "I
was going to introduce you, but he didn't give me a

"It's okay, I handled it. Let's go talk to this guy,"
Doggett said, getting out of the car without looking
at her.

~ X ~

Their interview with Jason Gibney was an exercise in
frustration. The funeral director was polite but
distant, insisting that he knew nothing about the
Robillard man or his circumstances, that all he did
was find him.

The agents were about to leave when something
occurred to Reyes. "Mr. Gibney, is it common practice
to not embalm a body?"

"It's not *common* practice, no, but it happens."

"How often?"

"I really couldn't say," Gibney said with a shrug.
"Often enough, I suppose."

Reyes pressed him. "Is there a certain type of person
who would request a loved one not be embalmed?"

"I've never noticed a pattern, Agent Reyes. There's
no law in Louisiana that says you *have* to embalm a
body, unless you don't bury it within thirty-six
hours. Most people do it anyway, some choose not to.
Is there anything else?"

Doggett caught on to his partner's line of
questioning and picked it up. "Have you conducted any
funerals recently where the body wasn't embalmed?"

A look of horror crossed Gibney's face. "Are you
saying...this could happen again? I could've entombed
someone alive?"

"We'd like to take a look at your records, Mr.
Gibney," Doggett said calmly. He and Reyes exchanged
a look as Gibney sprinted back to his office.

~ X ~

After all that, Gibney's records led nowhere. He
hadn't conducted a funeral with an unembalmed body
for months, and none of the victims in this case had
been "dead" for more than a week or ten days.

By the time they were finished with him it was after
seven, so they went back to their motel. Since the
Bureau's Work And Family policy took effect, John and
Monica, like Mulder and Scully, had no more need for
the pretext of separate rooms.

Things were still a bit frosty between them, however.
They didn't say much on the drive back. Monica just
said "I'm not hungry" in response to John's
suggestion of dinner. So he went out in search of
food while she did a short yoga routine and began her
nightly meditation. She was still seated on the
floor, eyes closed, her back to the wall, when she
heard him come back.

He fussed around the room for a bit -- hanging up his
jacket, taking food out of bags -- then he sat down
at the little table and waited. After a few moments
she opened her eyes to find him watching her.

"Sorry," he said quietly. Monica shrugged. "I know
you said you weren't hungry, but I brought you
something anyway."

"Thanks." She stood and stretched, then joined him at
the table. "What'd you get?"

"In this city? What do you think?" He gave her a
grin, which she returned, and they unwrapped seafood
po-boys and styrofoam cups of red beans and rice. He
reached into the bag and held something else out to
her. "Got you a praline." Again, he mispronounced it,
saying 'pray-leen.'

Taking the sweet candy from him, Monica smiled again.
"It's 'praw-leen,' and thank you." John smiled back
and took a big bite of his sandwich.

This was how she liked things between them -- easy,
comfortable, affectionate. Caring. Loving. The
tension of the last several hours had begun to wear
on her. She had missed this.

They ate in silence for a while, then John said, "You
never asked me if I talked to Agent Spender."

"You said you would. I assumed you did." He met her
eyes at that, and nodded. "What did he say?"

"That we should call him if we need him."

She gave him a grin. "That's what Mulder said."

Another brief lull followed, which again John broke.
"While I was waiting for the food, I called
Lieutenant Delacroix." He made a valiant effort to
pronounce the man's name correctly this time. "He's
arranged for us to talk to the two victims, and the
family of the guy who died."

"Good," she said, a little surprised.

"He's also gonna set aside an office in the precinct
for us to use tomorrow, in case we need it."

She was more than a little surprised now. "And *you*
called *him*."

"Yeah," he shrugged, then looked away. "That's not
the only reason I called, though." He paused. "I
needed to ask him...since you weren't speaking to

When he didn't go on, she prodded. "What, John?

"What you were to him, back then. What he was to
you." Only then did he look up at her -- she saw
doubt and fear in his eyes, things she only saw in
him when they dealt with personal issues.

"John, I told you, I was just a consultant."

"He says he asked you out."

"Yes, he did. And I said no." He didn't respond to
that. Exasperated, she started, "John -- "

"He wants you, Monica."


"Yeah, he does. A man can tell when another man wants
what's his."

Coming from anyone else, that phrase and the emotion
behind it would've bothered her. But from John, it
was different. It meant that she was someone to be
cherished, not someone to be possessed.

"I'm sure by now he's aware that I'm taken."

John shook his head. "No, he isn't."

"Then I'll have to make it clear to him." She stood
up and came around the table, stopping in front of
him. "Just like I've tried to make it clear to you. I
don't want Rene Delacroix." She swung her leg over
his and sat in his lap, straddling him. "And I don't
want Brad Follmer." She shifted, draping her arms
over his shoulders, trailing her fingers through his
hair. His hands came to rest on her lower back and he
teased the strip of bare skin he encountered there.
She leaned close to him, her lips millimeters from
his. "I only want you." He closed the gap between
them and kissed her, gently at first but with
deepening passion.

When he released her mouth, she whispered, "I love
you, John." His arms tightened around her and he
kissed her again.

~ X ~

Interviewing the victims in this case was an exercise
in futility.

The most recent, Michael Robillard, was withdrawn and
unresponsive. He sat in an easy chair and stared,
vacant, out the window. His wife Janine hovered,
answering their questions in an offhand way. It was
as if she didn't really care to discover the why
behind her husband's return; she was satisfied that
he was alive, regardless of how or in what condition
he came back to her. When Doggett suggested that
Michael might be better off in a hospital, Janine
spat back that that was how the other man had
*really* died. Then she asked them to leave.

The second victim, Gary Carlton, was entirely
different. At 36, he was older than either Robillard
or the other man, Tom Davenport, and apparently came
out of his "death" with a renewed appreciation for
life. He was very active, bustling around his
apartment and eager to share his experience with the
agents. When he reluctantly let them go, he pressed
some religious pamphlets into their hands,
proclaiming himself as a modern-day Messiah.

Tom Davenport had been found first, two weeks ago,
after being "dead" for eight days. Like Robillard,
he'd been listless and detached. His parents had put
him in the hospital, where he continued to waste
away. He seemed to rally a few days ago, becoming
more active and vocal but still lingering on the edge
of consciousness. His mother mentioned to Reyes that
he said something about someone named Carlotta, but
she didn't know who that was. Then he simply died.

Regrouping back at the precinct in the office
Delacroix had provided them, Doggett and Reyes
studied the files with a growing sense of
frustration. A phone call from Scully only added to
it -- the autopsy showed that Tom Davenport had no
implants, no metals or metallic substances in his
body. In fact, she told them, she could find no cause
of death other than simple heart failure.

"That fits," Doggett said after Scully hung up. "His
mother said he hadn't been sick before he supposedly
died the first time."

"Same with the other two," Reyes agreed.

The agents shared a look. "This isn't like the
others," Doggett said.

Reyes shook her head. "None of them ever went
missing, like Mulder or Billy Miles. And there's no
record of military service, like Shannon McMahon or
Knowle Rohrer."

"I wondered why I hadn't heard from Shannon on this
one." He pulled one file from the trio. "I think we
can cross that Gary Carlton off our list, though."

"Why's that, Agent Doggett?" Delacroix asked,
bringing them coffee. Doggett handed him one of
Carlton's pamphlets. Reading it over, Delacroix
laughed and nodded. "Snake-oil salesman."

"Big time," Doggett agreed.

Both men looked at Reyes, who sat at the table with
Robillard's and Davenport's files open in front of
her. She didn't stay anything, didn't even reach for
coffee. After a long moment, Delacroix spoke up.

"What are you thinking, Monnie?"

At that, Reyes looked at him. "Rene, have I ever told
you how much I hate being called that?"

"You -- I'm sorry, Cher," Delacroix replied,
flustered. "I didn't mean anything by it, I just -- "

"It's Monica, or Agent Reyes. Please." She smiled a
bit to soften the blow, and he nodded. She turned
back to the files. "First of all, John and I agree
that this is not what we've encountered before."

"So it's not that supersoldier thing," Delacroix
said, relieved.

"Not at all. But something's not right here. Why
these two people, in all of New Orleans? I think we
need to do a complete victimology on them. There's
got to be some connection between them. And I'm a
little surprised that no one's mentioned voodoo
before now."

Delacroix laughed. "Cher, no one's mentioned voodoo
in this office since you left town."

"I think we ought to mention it now." This came from
Doggett, which was a surprise to his partner. He
turned to her to explain. "Mulder and Scully had a
case, way back when, involving voodoo and Haitian
refugees at a detention center, and some people
supposedly being buried alive. Now, that was Haitians
and this is, I don't know, Cajuns or whatever. But
still -- "

"It's worth considering," Reyes said with a smile.
She reached out and took his hand. "That's good,

He gave her hand a squeeze before turning to a
surprised Delacroix. "You got some markers for this
white board?"

~ X ~

Several hours later, the white board was filled with
the details of Michael Robillard's and Tom
Davenport's lives. Where they worked, where they
shopped, where they socialized. Who their friends
were, who their enemies were. How much money they
made, how much they owed.

That's where they hit paydirt.

Both men were heavily in debt to a loan shark named
Carlotta Guillaume. Her Creole background included an
interest in mysticism and obscure religious practices
-- voodoo wasn't much of a stretch.

Carlotta Guillaume lived in the French Quarter, an
expensive neighborhood which confirmed to the agents
that loan sharking was a lucrative business. She
didn't fit their preconceptions of what a loan shark
looked like -- a woman, to begin with, in her
thirties, tall and thin, with caramel-colored skin
and blonde-highlighted hair in long narrow braids.
She admitted them readily, and seemed to speak openly
about the two men and her relationship to them.

"Yes, I have done business with Monsieur Robillard,
and with Monsieur Davenport," Carlotta said. She
spoke with a heavy accent that Reyes had trouble
identifying, finally concluding that it was a
combination of Creole, Cajun and some island dialect.
"They both owe me a great deal of money, in fact."

"Well, Mr. Davenport's dead, so I guess you'll have
to write that one off," Doggett pointed out.

Carlotta shrugged. "The debt survives, Agent, so the
next-of- kin are responsible."

"As an illegal loan shark, Ms. Guillaume, I doubt you
can file a legitimate claim with the probate court."

"You'd be surprised what I can do."

"No, I don't think we would," Reyes spoke up. She'd
been exploring the room, stopping in a dimly lit
corner where a few candles flickered. "Do you
practice voodoo, Carlotta?"

The woman smiled. "You think because they owe me
money I put the gris- gris on them? Now, why would I
do that?"

"To scare them, or their families. That's a loan
shark's main weapon, isn't it? Fear?" Doggett

"Financial consultant," Carlotta said, miffed. "You
keep calling me a loan shark, Agent Doggett. I'm a
financial consultant."

"Right," Doggett replied. "Could we see your records
-- your financial consulting records -- pertaining to
Mr. Robillard and Mr. Davenport?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Technically, I believe you need a
court order or a subpoena."

"We could do that," Reyes said, joining Doggett on
the sofa. "But that could take hours, and we'd have
to wait here until the police could send someone over
with the paperwork..."

"It'd be quicker if you'd just cooperate," Doggett
added with a small smile. Carlotta looked between the
two agents, her mouth tight, then got up and left the

"You see anything interesting?" Doggett asked his
partner, keeping his voice low.

Reyes shook her head. "Nothing. I mean," she
indicated the dark corner, "that looks like a shrine
of some sort, but there's nothing there to -- "

She broke off as Carlotta came back, carrying two
file folders which she handed to Reyes. The agent
stood and moved away, back toward the dark corner, as
she looked through the papers.

Touching the papers inside, Monica instantly felt a
tingling sensation in her fingers. After a few
seconds, the tingling became a burning. Then the
papers in her hand seemed to blur before her eyes,
and it became hard to breathe. Monica turned to her
partner. "John..." she said, or thought she said. She
couldn't be sure -- her tongue and throat had gone
numb. She closed the file folder and hung on to it
tightly, took a step forward.

Doggett leaped up as Reyes fell.

"What did you do to her?" he shouted at Carlotta.
Kneeling next to his partner, he picked up her hand.
"Monica? Monica, talk to me."

Monica's eyes rolled back as a seizure took hold of
her. Doggett pulled his weapon and his cell phone
simultaneously. "Don't you move," he said to
Carlotta, who merely sat and watched, a tiny smile on
her lips.

~ X ~

The Quarter didn't usually see this kind of
excitement except during Mardi Gras -- three N.O.P.D.
marked cars, plus Delacroix's unmarked car, plus a
fire truck and an ambulance. Doggett stood with
Carlotta Guillaume at one of the patrol cars, the
file folder Reyes had been holding now sealed in an
evidence bag and marked with a "hazardous material"

Finally getting what he needed, he handed her off to
a uniform and rushed to the ambulance, where Monica,
strapped to a gurney and wearing an oxygen mask, was
being loaded in. He climbed into the back with her.

"Suspect says it's some kind of toxic plant called
monkshood. Causes extreme paralysis," he told the
paramedics, one of whom relayed that information to
the hospital. "It was on the paper she was handling."

"Which hand?" a paramedic asked.

"Both, I think." The paramedic nodded, then put
plastic bags over both of Monica's hands.

John leaned forward, closer to her, and smoothed her
hair off her face. "Monica? You're gonna be okay,
darlin'. We're on our way to the hospital right now.
You're gonna be okay."

Out of Doggett's line of sight, the paramedics
exchanged a look which said that her being okay was
far from certain.

~ X ~

"John, I'm fine. The doctor released me from the
hospital, remember?"

"I just don't think you should be coming back to work
so soon," Doggett told his partner as they walked
through the parking garage at the Hoover Building.
"You were poisoned, Monica."

"But I got better," Reyes pointed out.

"Carlotta Guillaume was still charged with attempted
murder of a federal agent," Doggett reminded her.

"Okay, okay. I'll only stay till lunchtime.
Satisfied?" she asked as the elevator arrived.

He pushed the button for the basement. "Guess I'll
have to be."

Monica tugged on his lapels, pulling him close. "You
could come home with me, in case I need anything."

John smiled and covered her hands with his own. "Last
time we were kissing in the elevator, we got caught."
Just then the elevator doors opened on the basement
hallway, and he pulled away. "After you."

"Party pooper," she tossed over her shoulder,
preceding him down the hall toward their office.
Doggett just smiled, watching her move.

Four pairs of eyes looked up as they entered the
office. Monica smiled. "Hi, everyone."

"Welcome back," Diana Fowley said, coming forward and
giving Reyes a brief hug.

"It's good to be back."

"We're glad you're all right," Brad Follmer said,
staying at his desk and glancing at Doggett. "We
were, all of us, very concerned when Agent Doggett
told us what happened."

"That woman really used voodoo to control people who
owed her money?" Alex Krycek asked.

Reyes nodded. "Turning them into zombies was a
relatively new wrinkle, but apparently she'd been
casting spells and curses for years." Doggett cleared
his throat, and she grinned at him. "Of course, John
doesn't believe a word of it."

"I believe she's responsible for what happened to
those people, and for the *real* death of one man,"
he responded, a little defensive. He spotted a box on
the table near the door. "Hey, who brought

"Um... I did," Jeffrey Spender said. Follmer shot him
a look and a raised eyebrow. "Well, *we* did. Brad
and I. We figured it wasn't fair for you to be the
one to bring them all the time, so we thought we'd
take turns." Spender glanced at Krycek and Diana.

"Alex and and I'll take next week," Diana said.
Krycek grunted, and Diana let her nails sink into his
good shoulder. "You and Agent Doggett can take the
week after that." She smiled at Reyes. "If that works
for you."

Monica nodded as John handed her a doughnut.
"Chocolate iced creme-filled. Your favorite." He
leaned in close and whispered, "Ms. Social Director."

She smiled at him, at the team. That's what they were
finally starting to become. There were still problems
-- Krycek, Brad, John's attitude toward them both --
but they were trying.

She took a big bite of her doughnut, tongue lapping
at the rich cream filling squirting out onto her



Krispy Kreme Doughnuts --
The Tiffany's of doughnuts. Three locations in the
greater Washington area, and maybe one near you!

New Orleans cemeteries --
lots of other sites (just Google). Explore the Cities
of the Dead.

Information on monkshood (aka wolfbane) taken from
"Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons" by Serita
Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner. Part of The
Howdunit Series, published by Writer's Digest Books.

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